October 2012 Archives

12:11 PM
ns_booga.jpegHurricane Sandy made a mess of the transit system here in NYC and reports are informing me that New Jersey has actually cancelled Halloween (can they do that?!).  Fortunately, Marisa and I already managed to get in our Hallows Eve festivities last weekend with a rousing evening of karaoke with tattooist Tim Kern (who was dressed as a very convincing Gene Simmons) and Friends.  In honor of our "Tank Girl and Booga" couples-costume (and the fact that I'm a Hewlett & Martin junkie), I wanted to post these two great Tank Girl tattoos.

tankgirl_tattoo.jpeg[Tank Girl tattoo by Bryan Hall of Cherry Hill Tattoo in Naples, FL]

tankgirl_joe.jpeg[Tank Girl tattoo by Joe Capobianco of Hope Gallery in New Haven, CT]

Happy Halloween, everyone!
12:43 PM
Michele Wortman floral tattoo.jpg
Michele Wortman floral tattoo3.jpg
As we wade our way through the floods and debris left by Hurricane Sandy, I want to focus today on the beauty, rather than destructiveness, of nature. The first artist who naturally came to mind, particularly with her floral-form bodysets, is Michele Wortman of Hyperspace Studios in Illinois.

I had a wonderful time interviewing Michele and her husband -- renowned biomechanical artist Guy Aitchison -- for an upcoming issue of Inked magazine. In it, we talked about how their distinctive artist styles developed, some of the controversy behind their approaches, and how one can be a better artist through attitude adjustment.

Here's a taste of that interview where Michele describes her bodysets:  ethereal, organic tattoos with a unified look throughout in the large scale projects.

Michele, how did your style develop?
My style originated from being a collector and not necessarily resonating with the early work I collected. I started to assess it more and realized that I wanted something that was more unified, that had less weight to it, and that reflected more of how I was feeling rather than what the styles were available at the time.

Around when was that?

It was around 1995 when I first got a half sleeve. I know that's not very much coverage but, at the time, it seemed it because you didn't really see women with the coverage you see now, and it felt like a big step. Then I got a chest piece a year later. My work had a fair amount of black in it, and I wanted something that felt lighter and a little freer. So I started getting lasered, getting rid of all the black in my ink so that I could reconstruct it, and during that period of time, I became a tattoo artist.

Would you say your style is more feminine?

It's interesting you should say that because, originally, I had wanted a half sleeve of flowers and this girl looked at me, rolled her eyes and said, "You would get that. How typical of you." That bothered me, so I decided I would rebel against my "feminine nature" and get architecture, which is very masculine in my opinion, very man-made. The fact that I rebelled against my feminine nature in the beginning only to come back to it later was an interesting lesson for me-to be comfortable and enjoy things that might be associated with having feminine qualities and not try to fight it and be someone I'm not. That had a lot to do with the energy I was putting into my tattoo work and that became my defining style.
More of our interview will be in an Inked "Icon" feature. I'll do a follow-up post when the issue is out. To view more of Michele's work, check her Facebook page as well as the Hyperspace website.

Michele Wortman floral tattoo4.jpg
08:44 AM
sandy grease tattoo.jpg... I present an ode to American pop culture's most beloved Sandy of all time. 

The Grease-inspired portrait is by Emily Rose Murray, a fantastic artist who works from a private studio in the northern outskirts of Melbourne, Australia. You can check more of her portfolio on Facebook and Instagram.
07:05 AM
Dana Helmuth.jpgDana Helmuth makes beautiful Japanese tattooing that follows the long standing traditions of the art form -- more conservatively than the modern genre mash-ups -- but still with its own distinctiveness. They are just as striking from a distance as they are up-close, and they are built to look good to the grave. 

How Dana has come to achieve these qualities in his work is no secret:  homework, hard work, and a love for tattooing. You'll hear many great artists say the same thing. But for a more in-depth understanding into his approach -- and to get an up-close look at how he works -- check out the live tattoo webcast on TattooNow TV, next Sunday, November 4th. Dana will be doing an interview as well; for a preview on that talk, you can read this Q&A with the artist TattooNow.com.

drago tattoo backpiece Helmuth.jpgYou'll also get to see another side of Dana on November 8th -- as a musician. He'll be playing live next Thursday. To get a taste of his music and tattooing, here's a video below (put to Dan's own music) in which he does a custom black and grey dragon backpiece in one day.

Dan will be tattooing at Off the Map Tattoo in Easthampton, Mass. from November 3-9 and still has some space available. Contact Off The Map for more info.
08:23 AM

The final episode of Mutsuo's Tattoo Age 3-part feature is now online, and it's a fascinating -- and very personal -- look into the Osaka-based artist. He takes us on a tour of local temples and shares his feelings on spirituality, happiness, and family -- and we are introduced to his loved ones in the video as well.

Another interesting aspect is the issue of prejudice against the tattooed, which still lingers today in Japanese society (and many other cultures), as evidenced by prohibitions on showing tattoos in some bathhouses and beaches, among other public spaces. The legalities of the art are muddied as well.

Once again, it's a must-see production.

Check Part 1 and Part 2 as well.
11:11 AM
10 months.  55 and a half hours under the needle.  Three giant tubs of Aquaphor.  Numerous discussions with my credit card's fraud department.  And countless attempts to bleach the blood and ink out of my sheets.

My backpiece by Mike Rubendall is finally complete... for now.

See pics (semi-NSFW) and read about the process at bodysuittofit.blogspot.com


08:06 AM
luke wessman tattoo.jpg
Luke Wessman Tattoo on "Amer the Gamer" at Lucky's SD

Last week, Complex magazine posted an extensive interview with Luke Wessman, an artist known to reality TV fans for his appearances on Miami Ink & NY Ink, but for true tattoo fans, he's regarded a strong artist with a distinctive artistic flavor. In the interview, Luke discusses the development of his style, his experience with reality TV, tattooing rappers, and more. And naturally, there are photos from his portfolio.

That portfolio has been called "traditional gangster" style. Here's how Luke describes it in the interview: "It's the merge between growing up around street and neighborhood tattooing like Olde English and block letters and then you go and learn to tattoo at this traditional shop. My influences come from both and I guess that would be the mix of traditional gangster tattooing."

Luke Wessman tattoo2.jpg Coming from an old school tattoo education, but thrust in the middle of the tattoo tsunami of popularity that comes from being on TV (even if on the sidelines), Luke has an interesting perspective on the direction the industry is taking. Here's a bit on that from the interview:

[I]n regards to something I heard in your Self Made documentary. Someone mentioned the divide between older tattoo artists and what's trendy now, like more graphic designers becoming tattoo artists, etc. What are your thoughts on that?

It's an interesting thing. There's the main old guys, that learn how to tattoo, learn how to use the machines and they learn how to apply tattoos--the purest form of tattooing. Now there's more and more of an art influence where you're artistically skilled and you're joining that with the tattoo form. Now artists are becoming tattooers and the emphasis is bigger on art than the tattoo skill. In between that, there's this loss of the boundaries of what you can do as a tattooer and what you should do.

These artists are coming from a pure art perspective without learning a lot of the boundaries of old tattooing. You have these people doing these fancy designs because they come from a painting background without a tattoo background so this mix in the middle are all these young kids who aren't really learning from old guys or time-tested methods. There's reasons why certain things are done because there are limitations. There are no limitations to these kids because they're used to doing design and painting and graphic design. They're stretching the boundaries at first but not really knowing the consequences later on.

Read more on Complex.

Check out Luke's work on his site and on Facebook. And you can also learn more about the artist through his 2010 "Self Made" video (below).
06:43 PM
new yorker tattoo romney.jpg
While it's not even out on newsstands yet, the "Skin Deep" cover by Barry Blitt for next week's The New Yorker magazine is getting tons of buzz. The image is a play on Norman Rockwell's classic painting, The Tattoo Artist (1944). The traditional sailor flash background is replaced with tongue-in-cheek critiques of Mitt Romney; for example, the pin-up is styled as a "Binder of Babes," and the classic schooner tattoo reads "Cayman or Bust." And of course, Blitt has fun by taking the crossed-out names of the sailor's old girlfriends and changing them to political positions. [If this was a Bill Clinton satire, I'm sure the girls' names would've stayed.]

For some history on the original painting, check the Tattoo Archive's page on Norman Rockwell, which offers insight into the work, including the following info:

Rockwell worked from various photographs while painting The Tattooist, which was used as The Post cover on the March 4, 1944 issue. In fact, Rockwell used photographs as an aid in doing most of his paintings. For The Tattooist, Rockwell borrowed a tattoo machine from the Bowery tattooist Al Neville. Tattoo shop signs seen here is from the Rockwell collection. Rockwell obviously consulted with Al Neville along with former sailors to insure accuracy in his painting of The Tattooist.
The Selvedge Yard also has a great post on the painting, with photos like the one below.

07:40 PM

I've been looking forward to Wednesdays for each new episode of Vice's Tattoo Age video series. With all the reality TV shows, I consider it a tattoo cleanse. The episode that dropped today is Part 2 of the three-part feature on Mutsuo of Three Tides Tattoo.

You gotta see it, but I'll tell you my personal highlights. First, what Tattoo Age has been doing is showing not just telling you about the artists featured, through their personal interactions and filming how they usually live day-to-day. It opens with a sweet interaction between Mutsuo and a woman who works at a noodle shop he's eating at. It's very telling about the artists' personality. Of course, you do have his friends (and colleagues) like Masa, who owns the shop, and Chris Garver, who does regular guest spots, talking highly about Mustuo. And revealing stories of drunken nights. It's all fun. But there's also a lesson about how one becomes a renowned tattooist. In Mutsuo's case, it's not just about dedication but the education he received from those talented artists around him like Horitomo, and guests from around the world including Garver, Chris Trevino, Adrian Lee, and Grime. It explains why his portfolio is so incredibly diverse.

Mutsuo joined Three Tides in 1999. There's an interesting discussion about the evolution of the shop itself, which Garver says will go down in history as one of those "legendary shops." He further explains how Three Tides was the first "Western-style shop" in Osaka, with the goal of becoming like the best shops in America.

Perhaps, the greatest highlight for me was seeing footage of the 1999 Tokyo convention. Damn, everyone looked so young! The convention is discussed as a turning point of tattoo culture in Japan when the art became open to different artistic styles.

Like the other episodes. It's a must see.

If you missed Part 1, check it here.
09:12 AM
Even though I'm scheduled to finish up my back-piece this week with Mike Rubendall of King's Ave Tattoo, it's now possible for the Average Joe/Josephine to own and wear some of his art without the blood, sweat and waiting-list...

Rubendall's most recent painting, Alpha/Omega, is now available in a limited-edition, signed/numbered print on an aluminum panel.  Better yet, if you purchase the print, you also get a fitted New Era 59FIFTY cap in a custom package also designed by the artist.

On the outside, the black cap features a charcoal-grey embroidered snake and logo for Kings Ave, but the magic lies within: the red and black satin interior features a reproduction of the Alpha/Omega print.  (Remember: it's what's on the inside that counts...)

Only available online, limited to a run of 100 and packaged in a custom-printed box, this offer won't be around forever... unlike your tattoo. 

Click here to order!

06:33 PM
FB_October_PumpkinCarvingPromo2.jpgGot another fun contest for ya! Sullen Clothing and Villafane Studios have teamed up to present the 2012 Pumpkin Carving Contest. All you have to do is take pictures of your pumpkin carving and post it on Sullen's Facebook page and/or follow both @sullenclothing and @villafanestudios on Instagram and post your pumpkin pic with the hashtag #SULLENVILLAFANECARVE2012.

The winner, who will be chosen on Halloween, will score a $200 Sullen Online Gift Certificate and a 3-D Pumpkin Carving Kit from Villafane Studios. The judges will be Sullen Clothing, Villafane Studios and Bob Tyrrell.

Head over to the Villafane Studios Facebook page for tips and tricks. You can check some of the awesome submissions already on both FB pages.

I too have recently carved a pumpkin but don't think it will be in the running.

PS: We have another fantastic Sullen contest this way, no carving required. More on that soon.
05:37 PM
mildred hull tattoo sign.jpg
Just wanted to share this podcast I'm enjoying right now:  "Under Your Skin" by the radio show To The Best of our Knowledge on National Public Radio.

"Under You Skin" looks at the old and new schools of tattooing. There are a number of clips from the wonderful cd box set The Last of the Bowery Scab Merchants by Walter Moskowitz, one of the legendary Bowery Boys. Some great stories about fixing black eyes and also tattooing interesting characters like one wealthy businessman who said, when asked about his job and having all his tattoos, "When you have a million dollars in the bank, the world can kiss your ass." Loved it!

There are also interviews with others in the tattoo world that are a compelling listen as well. You can click individual clips of the podcast here.

To enjoy all of Walter Moskowitz's stories, go to Scabmerchant.com and get your own 2-cd set (with great essays and artwork in the 24-page booklet) for just $22.50. [I'm honored to be a part of the project as well and to have talked with Walter before his passing.]

Photo above:  Mildred Hull sign via the Scab Merchant Facebook page
06:28 PM
thomas Hooper singularities.jpg
facial tattoo hooper.jpgOne of the most sought-after artists for blackword ornamental and sacred geometry tattoos is Thomas Hooper of Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn. [In fact, he's currently not booking new clients.] Thomas is also a prolific painter and has worked on numerous design projects.

Thomas recently discussed tattoos, fine art and fatherhood with the designers at 3sixteen for their Singularities project, in which they highlight creative people in various industries.

You can read the full Singularities interview here, but I'll give you a taste:

Tell us about your first tattoo apprenticeship. What's something you learned that still rings true for you today?

I was taught how to tattoo by Jim Macairt; he gave me the foundations to begin learning about tattooing. Something he said to me that still rings true today is a question he asked me when he found out I wanted to learn (you have to realise also that I was a frightened and insecure boy so this blew my mind). He said: "What will YOU do for tattooing? You will get so much from it but what will YOU give back?" This is always in my head - how can I give back, how can I make something new and expand on what is already such an expansive wealth of inspiration and creativity.
In looking at your body of work, it's clear that you find beauty in repetition. Why is this, and where did you draw inspiration from as you developed your personal style?

I love repetition, and I realised its beauty in looking at traditional Japanese tattoos. Everything is the same but slightly different. I found inspiration in nature and I then started looking at the work of William Morris, Christopher Dresser and Ernst Haeckel - the former of which lead to my interest in textile design and repetitive patterns.
Check more work from Thomas on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

thomas hooper tattoo.jpg
07:55 AM
craig_burton_photography.jpg craig_burton.jpg craig_burton_photography2.jpgOne of my favorite photographers who works heavily with those in the tattoo and music worlds -- and is a walking work of art himself -- is London-based badass Craig Burton. Craig has shot me and numerous other collectors for my own books and contributes to Total Tattoo, Tattoo Life and Inked Magazine, among many others.

To check his work online, the best place for a daily pic fix is his newish blog, which I'm loving. There's a diversity of editorial and fashion -- from portraits of beautiful men & women, often covered in beautiful tattoo work, to convention coverage.
He also posts fun videos. Here's one below on the London Convention.

To contact Craig to shoot your model portfolio, live gig, art show, corporate function, or 20-lb tattoo tome, hit him up at info [at] craigburtonphotography.com.
08:29 PM

Today, Part 1 of the Tattoo Age feature on Mutsuo of Three Tides Tattoo was released on Vice.com, and as anticipated from the trailer we posted last week, it provides viewers with a very real portrayal of one of Osaka's finest tattooers, artistically and on a personal level.

It opens with a great quote from Chris Garver (which was also in the trailer), about Mutsuo receiving a "90s style tattoo education" -- that is, taking every request that walked in the door and learning the skills to master the different tattoo styles requested by clients. The fact that he was mentored by all the shop's artists and guest artists played a big role in developing these skills as well. As Garver says, "He's a maverick." The footage is also a great peak into the daily life at Three Tides Tattoo.

To see more of Mutsuo's work, also check his Facebook page and Tumblr.
11:23 AM
yap tattoo.jpg
Dapoy: last known Yapese to wear the full body tattoo.

I want to start the week off by sharing this great post by Dean Schubert on his experience tattooing on Yap Island, Micronesia. Dean -- whose Visual Tattoo is the longest standing shop in Humboldt County, CA -- took some time off from the studio to travel to Yap with his wife Britanny and explore the island. There, he had the honor of tattooing a traditional Yapese backpiece on Leo Pugram, owner of Yap's only professional tattoo studio.

Here's a bit of that experience:

With nearly twenty four hours of air travel and lay-overs, we made our way from Arcata, California to Colonia Yap. The majority of our stay was at O'Keefe's Waterfront Inn. Which made for a most pleasant stay. The owner of O'Keefe's, Don Evans, is a long time friend of Leo Pugram, and it was Don who informed Leo of Yap's traditional tattoo history. The last person to wear the tattoo on Yap passed away in the 1970s. With the practice suspended through discouragement by early western visitors and the eventual ban during the Japanese occupation from the 1920's-1940's, the art was mostly forgotten and unknown to some of the youth today.
We tattooed many back-to-back days with a couple of breather days in between. I believe it was 9 days total. I didn't write it down. With constant high 80s and humidity, the days melted together. It was so much tattoo at once and I really admire Leo's dedication to the project, it was a lot to take. We made it and celebrated in the village of Maki on the Dance Platform where traditionally the tattooed of the island would present their tattoos to others.
Head to Dean's site for more of his story and photos.

yap tattoo by Dean Shubert.jpgYap tattoo on Leo Pugram by Dean Schubert.
10:51 AM
Earlier today, Total Tattoo magazine shared a link on Facebook to an interesting BBC article, which I wanted to pass along to you as well.

"The rise of the Maori tribal tattoo" written by Dr. Ngahuia Te Awekotuku begins with somewhat of a primer on Maori tattoo traditions, briefly discussing the history of Moko, its practice and symbolism. She then discusses her own experience as a Maori woman taking on the facial Moko in commemoration of the life of Te Arikinui Dame te Atairangikaahu, "the Maori Queen," who died in 2006.

As in a lot of discussions on indigenous tattooing, she briefly addresses the issue of cultural appropriation of Moko. Here's a bit of that:

[...] Moko, most of all, is about life. It is about beauty and glamour, and its appearance on the bodies of musicians such as Robbie Williams and Ben Harper is not unusual. Although it is often contentious, raising issues of cultural appropriation, and ignorant use of traditional art as fashion.
However we must also acknowledge that Maori artists are sharing this art - they are marking the foreign bodies.

The important reality remains - it is ours. It is about beauty, and desire, about identity and belonging. It is about us, the Maori people.

Read the rest on BBC online. Dr. Ngahuia Te Awekotuku is the author of Mau Moko: The World of Maori Tattoo (which includes the image below).

mau moko.jpg

09:55 AM
Mutsuo tattoo.jpgmutsuo 3.jpgmutsuo tattoo 2.jpgThe second season of Vice's Tattoo Age video series began with the fabulous 3-part profile on Valerie Vargas of Frith Street Tattoo in London. Now, it takes us to Osaka, Japan for a peak into the life of Mutsuo of the Three Tides Tattoo. Part 1 of Mutsuo's profile drops October 10th, but the trailer below promises that it will be another great watch.

What's particularly interesting about Mutsuo, as discussed in the trailer, is that he's skilled in a variety of genres -- black & grey, old school, new school, traditional Japanese... Chris Garver remarks that his tattoo dexterity is rooted in the "90's style tattoo education" in which Mutsuo learned from all the artists, including guest tattooers, at the
renowned Three Tides Tattoo studio. Vice notes that he "went from being one of the shop's first customers, to the shop's first apprentice, to the most senior artist there." Looking forward to learning more about this progression.

While we wait for Part 1 next Wednesday, we can check Mutsuo's tattoo work on the Three Tides site, his Facebook page and Tumblr.

10:39 AM
London tattoos convention 2012 - 1.jpgPhoto of Khan by Edo Zollo. All photos in this post by Edo.

This past weekend, one of the world's best tattoo shows -- The London Tattoo Convention -- welcomed an estimated 20,000 attendees to East London's Tobacco Docks for the finest tattooing, performances, art exhibitions ... and Instagram posting.

I'm not gonna lie. I wanted to delete all my social media apps out of jealousy. We couldn't make it to the party this year but were constantly reminded what we were missing. But I'm over the envy and now enjoying the many images of the show.

My favorite photos are by London-based photographer Edo Zollo, who has graciously let us share some of them here. You can see Edo's full convention set on Flickr. Also check him on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.

London Tattoo Convention Zollo.jpgLondon tattoos convention Edo Zollo.jpgFor more convention photos, follow these links:

London tattoos Zollo.jpg

10:07 AM
holocaust tattoos.jpg Photos by Uriel Sinai.

Yesterday's The New York Times featured the article "Proudly Bearing Elders' Scars, Their Skin Says 'Never Forget'", which talks about Holocaust survivor families getting tattoos of the numbers etched into the chests and forearms of their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles who were prisoners at the Auschwitz and Birkenau death camps. The families do so as a way to honor their elders and also to remind others of the atrocities. This method of doing so has caused some of controversy.

The Times article is inspired by the documentary "Numbered," directed by photojournalist Uriel Sinai and Dana Doron (a doctor and daughter of a survivor) who interviewed 50 tattooed survivors. These survivors discuss their horrific experiences and what they carry with them, beyond the numbers in their skin. Their descendants who seek to keep their stories alive through their memorial tattoos face strong reactions, particularly by those who feel that wearing a "scar" or a mark that dehumanized people should not be a form of Holocaust remembrance.

The article describes the experience of 21-year-old Eli Sagir who got her grandfather's number on her forearm:

Ms. Sagir, a cashier at a minimarket in the heart of touristy Jerusalem, said she is asked about the number 10 times a day. There was one man who called her "pathetic," saying of her grandfather, "You're trying to be him and take his suffering." And there was a police officer who said, "God creates the forgetfulness so we can forget," Ms. Sagir recalled. "I told her, 'Because of people like you who want to forget this, we will have it again.'"
Another reaction is the misconception that one cannot be buried in a Jewish cemetery if tattooed. [Read Craig Dershowitz's post on tattoos and Judaism here.]  Then there are those who just find it "tacky," as I read in comments on the article.

What do you think? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section to this post on our Needles & Sins Syndicate group page.

"Numbered" premiers in the US at the Chicago International Film Festival next month. Here's a clip below.
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